Public hearing set on Nashua’s $258 million budget proposal

NASHUA – Next week will see the culmination of several weeks of work on the proposed fiscal 2018 city budget with Tuesday’s public hearing.

Aldermen will meet in the auditorium at Nashua High School North at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the public budget hearing after the Budget Review Committee has gone through the proposal from Mayor Jim Donchess.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, is $258,394,971. That’s up 4.3 percent, or more than $10 million, over 2017’s $247,886,768. The overall effect of the budget on the tax rate is estimated to be about a 3 percent increase, Donchess has said.

The city is dealing with large ticket bills it did not create, such as the $2 million increase in pensions, the $3.6 million increase in health care costs and the $400,000 increase in the Pennichuck water rates.

Donchess focused the budget on two main priorities: full-day kindergarten and dealing with the opioid abuse crisis.

Under the proposal, Nashua would have full-day kindergarten in all public schools. Donchess said this is vital for the students and their families, and for Nashua’s economy.

On the opioid front, the budget keeps essential departments such as school, police and fire staffed and budgeted in order to continue to provide the services needed, according to Donchess.

Despite the overall increase in the budget, the proposal prepared by Donchess manages to be $1.9 million under the spending cap, although that achievement is the subject of some controversy.

In March, the Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance shifting the way the wastewater enterprise fund was accounted for, taking it entirely out of the general fund. This move created about $9 million of spending cap space for 2018.

The move has sparked two lawsuits against the city. Former Alderman Fred Teeboom and current Alderman Daniel Moriarty are suing Nashua over what they see as violations of the spending cap in the city charter.